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Nearly 50 years ago a young woman majoring in chemistry went to her faculty advisor for career advice. “We don’t expect our female graduates to have careers,” she was told. Shannon Lucid went on to take five space flights and to hold for a time the record for the longest duration stay in space by an American, as well as by a woman.
The idea that an extremely accomplished woman such as Shannon Lucid would be discouraged from pursuing a career in her chosen academic field may seem ludicrous today. But we must acknowledge that our country is not that far removed historically from insidious informal and formal barriers to career opportunities for qualified women and minorities, which denied us a wealth of talent and ingenuity.
In the field of aerospace and defense, traditionally the preserve of male leaders, the glass ceiling of corporate leadership has been particularly hard for women to break through. That’s why it is so heartening that the number of women leading aerospace and defense companies is steadily increasing.